Hoyer: Obama open to scaled-down bill

President Barack Obama is open to passing a scaled-back healthcare bill if the current, more comprehensive plan fails, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Thursday.

Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat, said the president would have to look at a fallback proposal if the current proposals before Congress weren't able to muster the votes to pass.

"I think the president's open to that," Hoyer said during an appearance on CNBC, cautioning that the president would clearly prefer to see the comprehensive bills pass.

The details of the "plan B" bill were reported Thursday in The Wall Street Journal. The scaled-back proposal would extend coverage to 15 million — less than the coverage that would be extended under current legislation — and cost roughly a quarter of the $950 billion price estimated for current proposals.

"Obviously, the president has indicated he wants to have a comprehensive bill," Hoyer said. "But the president, like all of us, understands that in a democracy, you do the possible."

The majority leader's words mark a recognition that the votes may not be there yet for the House and Senate to move through healthcare proposals. When pressed, Hoyer ducked saying whether the current, comprehensive proposals would have the votes to pass if a vote were held today.

"I think we're in good shape," he said, rejecting House Minority Whip Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) claims that Democrats lack the votes. "I think good shape is being able to pass a bill."

Hoyer, Cantor and a slew of other House and Senate members from both parties will gather at Blair House for a summit with Obama on Thursday morning and afternoon, which is meant to try to find common ground on healthcare.

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